Episode 71: Feelings and Friends

We create rules sometimes about what our partners can do because we’re afraid of losing them, but sometimes the rules we make don’t actually change anything.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

How do you introduce the topic of STIs to someone you’re interested in dating or sleeping with?

Listen below. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers.


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Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

My boyfriend (26) and I (21) have been together for 3 years. We are in an "open" relationship, where we have both given permission to sleep with other people. As a couple, we talk about and fantasise about being with other people, both together and separately.

Neither of us have found the right situation, until now. I used Feeld, the app, and found someone who has consented to the situation and with meeting up with me alone and with both of us together. I was excited and when I presented this to my boyfriend and asked if we could meet for drinks, he told me he didn't want me talking to and developing relationships with other people.

To me, that's understandable and not at all unreasonable; however, the issue there is that I've never just "hooked up" with anyone. I need some sort of connection before sleeping with someone. I have no intentions of having emotions involved or to fill any sort of role that is currently filled by my boyfriend with anyone else. I just want casual sex, but I feel the need to get to know new partners. He doesn't seem to understand and isn't willing to compromise on it. Not that I feel like we should if he's truly uncomfortable with it.

My question is, does this mean we should just close our relationship and move on? I'm not against that but I would be a little disappointed, as this has been the basis of my fantasies for years.


The issue here is that friends go out for a drink together. Friends have emotions and feelings towards one another. If he doesn't want you to develop relationships with other people… I mean, I know that he means “a relationship”, right? But a friendship is also technically “a relationship” in the broadest sense of the term. It's totally understandable if for him he can meet someone with little to no conversation and get busy, that's fine. That's fine. Not everyone else is necessarily like that, and you are not like that and I don't think that it's unreasonable to want to just meet and have drinks.

And I'm guessing you're gonna find a lot of people— I mean, I don't know maybe in random clubs and stuff like that — maybe you will find more people who are cool with like just randomly hooking up without at least having a little bit of a conversation first. But generally speaking I would say within the polyamory universe, most people want to have like a chat and get to know each other a little bit. I really don't think that that is developing a relationship, right?

You chat and have drinks with coworkers and you're not necessarily developing long term deep partnerships with coworkers. I mean maybe you do. But that's not a huge ask. So I think you need to have a bigger discussion because, what happens if you do develop feelings for somebody? Because even if you were to follow these very — to me — a little bit odd rules… But okay, it's his rule. That's how he wants to do it.

Just because you don't have a conversation with somebody doesn't necessarily mean you can't develop feelings for them. Sex sometimes creates feelings, and especially if this is something that you've been fantasising about a lot. You can develop feelings. And what does that mean? Because I think people say — but what it means to have “have feelings” is a very subjective emotional experience which I don't think is necessarily the same for every single person on this planet.

Does he just not ever meet up with drinks with somebody unless he definitely wants to have a relationship with him? Because if that's how he does things fine, but it's clearly not how you do things. And what this kind of means in a lot of ways, is that there's kind of a feeling of a lack of trust. That he doesn't trust you. I don't think he thinks that logically in his brain. He's not like “Well I don’t She's just going to go meet up with somebody and they're going to be married next week”. I don't think he thinks that, but this type of rule and this type of fear tends to come from two things.

One is that he has an anxiety understandably of losing you. He doesn't want to lose you. So he is going to be afraid of you developing feelings for someone and ditching him. That is a totally understandable feeling. He can't control that. His making this rule is not going to be able to control that. You could meet someone at the grocery store and reach for the same mango and you both fall desperately in love. Doesn't happen to me. Could happen to you. I don't know your life, you know. That could happen.

You could meet someone at work who you chat with and you fall in love with. Unless he plans on keeping you locked up in a tower and not meeting anyone but you… And if he does, you should leave. He's not going to be able to prevent you from developing feelings for somebody. That's not controllable. So he has to understand that as much as he is afraid of that and that's — I'm not saying that's a bad thing. That makes total sense. He can't actually control that. And he certainly can't control that by making these weird arbitrary rules.

If anything that's more likely to drive you away than it is, you know… because if this is something that you really want to act on, and this is a thing that you feel like, “Well if I don't do this… I have only one life and so I need to find someone who will let me do this or who's interested in doing this”. So yeah it's just… he can't really control his fear with that rule and he needs to understand that.

Then you both kind of need to understand what it is that you would like— what it is that “having feelings” means. Because another thing that I think happens a lot when people open the relationship is that there's so many rules about like… “You need to tell me when you have feelings for somebody” or, you know “I need to know” because people have a really understandable fear and anxiety that their partner will meet someone, be blown away and be like “Well, screw you, I'm gone bye”. That is totally understandable and people are people aren't afraid of that in monogamy because they don't think it's going to happen.

But it can totally happen in monogamy. Polyamory doesn't magically make that more likely to happen. Okay, understandably, like someone having permission to go out and have dates with somebody is a little bit different but somebody can fall in love with someone that they've just met, and ditch you. Either one of you. That is something that can happen. So, that is something that a lot of people fear and so they try to create all these rules of like, “Okay, I need to monitor the situation so that I can have— the first sign that anything is wrong and we can we can handle that”.

But you need to start from a base level of trust right? It's sort of like if you started off in monogamy and you decided that you would each show each other all your text messages for the week. That's kind of the analogous rule. When you start off in monogamy, you start off on a basis of trust, which means that you don't need to look at each other's text messages. In the same regard, you need to start off on the basis of trust. He needs to get that you are saying “Hey, I'm prioritising this relationship. We've both decided that the type of non-monogamy that we want to have is one where we are a primary type, and then we have other sexual fun experiments with other people, but there is no change from this primary type, and that's fine”.

And I would also encourage you to communicate that to other people so that they're aware that this is the hierarchy that you're working on and they don't get upset or will understandably know to not expect more from you. But you both agreed on what you want. So now what you need to do is trust that that's what both of you want, and give yourself a little leeway. Because going out with drinks with someone is not developing feelings, So, yeah. All right.

To sum up, first things first, friends have drinks together. Having drinks is not developing a relationship with somebody. You need to have a bigger discussion about what that means within the context of your relationships, what you're going to do if you do develop feelings with for somebody. And then also, you need to remind him that he may have this fear and you may have it too. You just may not have had it crop up just yet. that he might lose you, but he can't try to control that by making these arbitrary rules.

Instead of you all making a rule that you won't fall for anybody else, you need to decide what you will do if that does happen, and that will actually help. Don't just make a rule. You can't control your feelings. So it's important that you don't try to make rules that act as though you can control your feelings. Try to have trust in one another, and talk about what will happen if the “worst” should happen and you do end up having feelings for somebody else. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

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